How to Connect a Playstation 3 Controller to a Mac in OS X El Capitan, Yosemite & Mavericks
If you want to use a Playstation 3 controller to play games on a Mac, you’ll find that connecting the PS3 controller and syncing it for use with OS X games is actually quite simple, regardless of what version of OS X the Mac is running. We’ll walk through how to quickly connect and configure a wireless Playstation 3 controller with a Mac, and how to troubleshoot some basic issues that you may encounter along the way. You’ll be up and gaming with the gamepad in no time!
To get started, you’ll need a Mac with any modern version of OS X, Bluetooth support, a standard Sony Playstation 3 wireless controller that has a charge, and the Mini-USB cable that connects the Playstation 3 controller to a console or USB port to charge it. Note the USB cable is only needed to set up the PS3 controller initially, and for charging it when necessary, the setup will be for the wireless usage of the Playstation controller through Bluetooth. You’ll also need a game or app that supports controllers, most of which do. Assuming you meet those requirements, let’s get the controller connected to the Mac and start using it with OS X.
Connect a Playstation 3 Controller to a Mac in OS X El capitan, Yosemite & Mavericks
The process of connecting and using a PS3 controller with a Mac is the same with basically every version of OS X beyond Lion, including OS X 10.11 El Capitan, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, etc.
- Optional but recommended, disconnect any nearby Playstation 3 power supplies so that you don’t inadvertently power on the PS3 during the gamepad setup with the Mac
- On the Mac, go to the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” then go to “Bluetooth”
- Turn Bluetooth ON in OS X (either through the Bluetooth preference panel or the menu bar item) if it’s not enabled yet
- Connect the Playstation 3 wireless controller to the Mac using the mini-USB cable
- Press the circular “PS” button on the middle of the Playstation controller to turn it on, the lights on the controller will blink as it pairs with the Mac – the Bluetooth preference panel will likely show a device available but not yet connected as it pairs the Mac with the PS3 gamepad
- Wait a moment to see “PLAYSTATION (r) 3 Controller” appear in the Bluetooth Devices list with “Connected” appearing underneath the text, once it displays “Connected” you can now disconnect the USB cable and use the Playstation 3 controller wirelessly with the Mac
Now that the Playstation 3 controller is connected to the Mac wirelessly, you can use it with any game or gaming app that supports controllers. It will work the same as any other USB or Bluetooth gamepad at this point, so configuring it for usage with individual games can vary slightly. Typically you’re looking for “Controls”, “Controller”, or “Gamepad” settings available within in-game Options, Settings, or Preferences, or sometimes an Input menu, and you may want to customize the individual buttons on the PS3 gamepad for each game or app.
Many Mac games support gaming with the Playstation 3 controller, and many games play better with a controller too, particularly if they were designed for a console originally. For example, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic:
Common emulators support controllers too, so if you’re a retro gaming fan you’ll find the excellent emulator app OpenEMU works well with the Playstation 3 controller in OS X.
If the Playstation 3 controller is not found by OS X when plugging it in and turning it on, you may want to turn Bluetooth off and back on again on the Mac, this can help with the discovery process.
Sometimes you may go to use the controller in a game and you’ll find the PS3 gamepad lights blinking constantly and going nuts, this usually means you need to re-sync the controller or that it wasn’t set up properly to begin with. Just disconnect and re-sync it and should be good to go with the Mac again. Also, be sure the Playstation controller batteries are charged, and that the controller is within a reasonable distance to the Mac so that the signal is sufficient (you can always check the device Bluetooth signal strength if you want to, or if you’re working with a more complex setup you can actively monitor the Bluetooth signal from OS X while you configure the gaming setup).
Disconnect a Wireless Playstation 3 Controller from OS X
If you want to disconnect the PS3 controller so that you can use it again with another device, the playstation, another Mac, or to re-sync it to OS X to troubleshoot the blinking lights issue, or the device constantly disconnecting and reconnecting, just do the following:
- Return to the Bluetooth preference panel in System Preferences
- Hover the cursor over the “Playstation 3 Controller” shown in the Bluetooth Devices list (if only a hexadecimal randomized name shows up, hover the cursor over that)
- Click the (X) and then choose “Remove” to confirm the disconnection of the PS3 controller from the Mac
If you’re doing this for troubleshooting purposes, just follow the above instructions to re-sync the Playstation controller to OS X and typically it will work fine.
Remember that Bluetooth devices that constantly cycle between being connected or disconnected often have low battery or some exterior signal interference. You can also check the PS3 controllers battery remaining from the Bluetooth menu bar item if you suspect a low battery to be causing issues.
Otherwise, enjoy using a Playstation 3 controller with your Mac, it’s a pretty great combination!